Taking center stage in the Murano's front console is a seven-inch information display. It shows you air conditioning settings, outside temperature, and audio system information, among other things, but if you've test-driven a number of LCD-equipped cars, you may think this one looks cheap. The colors and rendering of text and images seem a little crude and unsophisticated. It's a letdown, considering the rest of the vehicle displays the hip Nissan design ethic that has been a hallmark of the company's turnaround over the last five years.
The good news is that the Murano's GPS navigation system retains Nissan's Birdsview mode that we've come to adore in the company's luxury cars. As the name would imply, this perspective shows the terrain ahead as if you are flying above and slightly behind your Murano. It's not unlike the view found on many car-racing video games, and it gives you a natural sense of where you are and where you're going. As with most other vehicles' OEM navigation systems, you are unable to enter a new destination while the car is moving. Once we pulled over to enter a destination, we found its guidance works quite well.
Just below the main LCD is an array of clearly marked and functional buttons for controlling the display. That's more than we can say for other cars that have additional technology and use attendant menu levels, such as the Acura RL 3.5. You'll find smooth interaction with the Murano's information center until you come to the minijoystick control mounted high in the middle of the console. It moves left, right, up, and down just fine, but its "click to enter" function is dicey. The spring-loading is too light and requires conscious thought to make sure you don't tilt the knob in the process. As a result, we never felt confident selecting menu choices by feel alone.
For audio and visual treats, our Murano was equipped with an optional Bose seven-speaker, 225-watt stereo audio system with an in-dash six-disc changer and XM satellite radio ($400). It's nothing remarkable, but the sound quality is clean and loud, and it plays MP3 CDs. Unfortunately, there's no 5.1 surround-sound system available for the Murano.
The optional DVD entertainment system ($1,720) for rear-seat occupants is decent but could use some improvement. The system's LCD swings up from under the front console armrest to face the rear-seat passengers. It's a standard 4:3 ratio, and the 6.4-inch screen isn't very large, all of which contribute to a less-than-stellar experience when viewing a wide-screen movie. Included wireless headphones bring the audio to the rear-seat passengers. The actual DVD player is awkwardly mounted under the front console armrest, as is a set of auxiliary input jacks for connecting audio or video portables to the rear-seat entertainment system. More than that, what absolutely baffled us was the utter absence of a Bluetooth hands-free rig for the Murano, either as standard or optional equipment. We hope Nissan was just caught flat-footed on that one and will rectify this with the 2006 Murano. In the meantime, bring a headset.